Moto, music with Strung Out's Burns
Besides playing drums in Simi Valley, Calif., punk rock band Strung Out, drummer Jordan Burns is the owner and co-founder of Moto XXX. Burns and Co. were the "Originators of the Freestyle MX video movement," according to the Moto XXX Facebook page.
Burns says "things have been quiet with the company as of the past several years," but we caught up with him to reminisce and talk about music and motocross after Strung Out had been "touring like crazy" with stops at the Soundwave Festival in Australia and some shows in Japan.
ESPN.com: How did the idea of starting Moto XXX come about? Who was involved with starting it?
Burns: Well, the way it came about actually was me and Erik Sandin from NOFX had seen a lot of the surf, skate, snowboard videos that were out back in the early '90s and we would see a bunch of different motocross videos that were out there.
I had already been filming a bunch of motocross stuff for fun, hanging with my roommate at the time, Kenny Watson, and going to the races. My house used to be motocross central and Kenny would constantly have pros staying at our pad. So I was just doing a bunch of filming and I had this idea that we should take all this footage I had been getting of everyone riding and having fun and turn it into something like a skate or snowboard video.
I got a hold of my friend Kurt Haller who was making snowboard videos already at the time. He knew what it took to make a video and Erik and I really had no clue at the time. So yeah, it started off we just decided we were going to make this cool motocross video. This was way before we knew anyone else had the same idea. It wasn't until one time we were filming out at [Mike] Metzger's house with him and [Brian] Deegan that we heard about Jon Freeman making a motocross film called Crusty Demons Of Dirt, we were like, "Oh, they're making one too."
It was kind of interesting because Freeman came from the snowboarding world and knew Kurt. So it was kind of funny how it worked out. So, yeah, that's briefly how it happened.
When we came out with our first video, it was one of the first videos of its kind to be released. The Crusty's video came out first, then ours and I think "Terrafirma" was next. Those were the first videos of their kind to ever come out back then. It's nice to know that we were one of the originators of the whole FMX-motocross film scene.
You definitely were! Did you guys know that you would become and integral part of the MX/FMX filming industry?
I don't think we thought about that really and I don't think we thought that our film would gain so much attention back then either.
When we did our first video release premiere party, we did it in Mammoth, Calif., at the motocross race up there. We did it at this club Sierra's up their and my band Strung Out played the premiere party. It was actually such a crazy night (Moto XXX, Wet T-shirt contest announced my Jim Holley, Punk Rock, etc.) but to sit there and watch everyone watch the video and to get all the amazing reactions to it, all of that was really awesome and rewarding to see.
I guess at that point we knew we were onto something cool and things took off from there. You know we sold a s--- load of videos, I think the first one sold 80,000-plus videos. Our video did really well and started something new. Of course you were around at that time, Doug, and I'm sure you can recollect some of those good times. You did plenty of filming with us back in the day.
Yeah, I always watched your videos when it was raining, getting amped to go ride. Your videos always seemed to have the best natural terrain riding and the funniest skits. Was there any planning to that or did it just happen that way?
I like to think that our video got a lot of people pumped to go riding especially with the killer tunes we provided as the soundtrack. But, yeah, for one, you got to remember that back in those days, it was pretty much all natural terrain riding as there was no contests or ramps or nothing like that yet. That sort of stuff didn't come around for several more years after "Moto XXX 1."
Yeah, we were for sure about the skits and having some good entertainment in the video. We wanted to concentrate on funny stuff to put in there to make you laugh. I think a lot of the things we did back then definitely got some really good laughs. Like our scenes with Bob Throttle Jackson and Ester Gums Overbite, comedy! I think back to when we filmed Ronnie Faisst at the Daytona Supercross when he was an unknown racer with just one tattoo on his body. He did that kung fu skit saying "Scott Sheak, number one, number one" It's crazy how that caught on to Moto XXX fans.
Now Ronnie is, of course, a famous FMX rider so, it's cool to know that we were the first people to ever film with him (this falls true with lots of other riders too). Our skit with "Special Rob" is also incredibly classic in "Moto XXX 3." We just had a lot of fun with filming things back then, ya know.
Back then filming videos as a racer in a time where anything but doing motos was considered taboo, it's my opinion that you guys are responsible for helping get FMX off the ground. Did you have any idea that it would turn into a legitimate sport where now you need double back flips to win a contest and filming is almost gone unnoticed?
I don't think we initially thought that at all but as things went on and as we saw the first X Games start, as the Gravity Games came around, you know, we watched everything, we watched the whole scene develop and grow. It started to be that everyone was filming at that point and everyone was filming a lot of the same [stuff].
It sometimes turned into a filming battle out there with some of the film crews getting into arguments and such saying "you can't film my guy." But we always did our best at staying neutral with everyone by just doing our own thing. It helped that we were one of the originals, too.
But, yeah, sometimes you'd be out at say Glamis [Calif.], and all the different film/video crews were out there and everyone was filming the same guy. It was kind of funny, the battle for the shot. You had to do your best to figure out ways to try being different and I think we did a really good job pulling that off.
Anyhow, I don't think we initially thought this s--- was going to go so big. I'm just randomly recalling that I have footage of all the riders at the Gravity Games having a huge meeting and I mean everyone was there, Deegan, [Travis] Pastrana, [Carey] Hart, [Mike] Cinqmars, Twitch [Jeremy Stenberg], Metzger, [Larry] Linklogle, etc. They were talking about starting a union, getting all the riders to stick together and hold tight on this riders' association thing. The idea behind it was not to get burned when it came to the money that might generated and not to get screwed over on purses like all the riders would by the AMA and Supercross series.
It's so funny because it was this great idea but so many of the riders just blew it off and the whole thing fell apart. It's kind of cool that I got to be a part of seeing things like that back then and be there through the development of this FMX scene.
Yeah, that is super cool that you got to experience it because a lot of these new riders nowadays have no clue what it was like back then. I mean it wasn't about being anything but the coolest, gnarliest guy at the event. It was history in the making and unless you experienced the beginning you truly don't grasp what it was like.
Well, it was just a different time, right. But I like to think some of the newer up-and-coming-type riders look into the history of the sport and maybe if some don't know about Moto XXX, after reading this they'll check it out and watch some of our videos and maybe even get turned on to some new music. Making new fans is a great thing and keeping all the old fans is great, too.
It's the same thing like with being in my band. We have the longtime fans who stuck with us and then we enjoy having new people find out about Strung Out too. Anyhow, for those who don't know about Moto XXX, I think they'd be pretty stoked to find that two punk rock drummers and a snowboard filmmaker pulled this s--- off!
It's definitely progression.
The progression of the sport has of course been insane. Who knew that Brian Deegan would turn into this multi-millionaire mogul with the whole Metal Mulisha thing. I knew Metal Mulisha as something that Deeg's and Link just wrote on the fenders of their bikes and tagged it everywhere. Pretty gnarly what it became!
Do you miss filming to make videos?
I do. A lot of times I think about it but then I also think about the video market and how flooded out it has been. You know these days you have to spend a fair amount of good money to put out a quality film. All the big films that are doing well today are done by the big name guys, like Nitro Circus, Mulisha's "Black Friday," "On The Pipe" and so on.
These videos seem like who is going to get crazier then the last guy. Like Travis Pastrana and his crew are just insane. Anyone that jumps out of an airplane with no parachute is just, of course, nuts (laughs). Those guys have taken things to a whole new level.
Jay Schweitzer used to work for Moto XXX back in the day and I think it's fair to say (he would agree) that Moto XXX gave him his start in the industry. He's really taken his work to a whole new level and you know he's like the main guy right now in the FMX/MX film industry that is on top of his game. He just made the Mulisha video "Black Friday" and if you look at the work that he put into making that film, it shows they had a huge budget to work with.
It's just an entirely different level of filmmaking these days. The bar has been raised, that's for sure! That's expected, [stuff] progresses and everyone has to step up their game.
Yeah, the camera equipment Jay is running now was blowing my mind, I remember when we filmed "Ride to the Hills" Jay, Kurt, Barker were shooting on a regular 16mm film camera. Now Jay is working with high-tech digital 3D camera equipment.
Oh, yeah, it's like some crazy $50,000 camera or something ridiculous. He's really honed in and perfected his filming skills. He's hung himself out of helicopters and doing all kinds of crazy s--- to get the shot. You know I think Jay is definitely one of the best, if not the best, in the biz right now for sure.
Getting back to Moto XXX and the racing side of the company you were responsible for giving a ton of the riders who are now big names in the sport today in MX and FMX opportunities to showcase their personalities and at the same time building some traction in their careers.
Yeah, you know we took all the money we made from the videos and started a race team with Brian Deegan and Brian Swink. There were many times we practically went broke trying to keep the race team alive and on the road. It was tough! We didn't have money back then and suddenly it's like, all right everyone needs to cough up 10 grand each or the team is going under.
That was in the beginning, so it was pretty difficult to get going and to get sponsors to back you. Dealing with our team was nuts as nobody had ever seen a team like ours in the pits. We were straight up punk rock and doing s--- our own way. People were tripping on us and were fully stoked on what we were doing. The industry hated us and hoped that we would go away but, man, the fans loved us!
We were brand new and no one had ever done s--- like we had done before. We would have huge crowds around our box van back in the day and we could draw crowds away from McGrath once we'd start doing our giveaways. We were the first team to do this sort of stuff and the promoters/AMA would always try to shut us down. We got in trouble every single weekend, and it was awesome!
We had a long 13-year run with the motocross team. We always got called the most successful privateer team ever. Racer X would say that and I would read it and be like f--- yeah, that rules, knowing we are/were the most successful, true-to-the-word privateer team ever. I don't think anyone could argue this fact.
You guys had a ton of racers you gave first chances as well as second chances to become what they are today, who were some of those riders?
Well again, it all started with Brian Deegan, and Brian Swink, and then here's a ton of other riders that rode for Moto XXX. Larry Ward, Damon Huffman, Paul Currie, Tim Ferry, Nick Wey, Travis Preston, Phil Lawrence, etc., the list goes on.
There were so many people that came through our program, it's pretty crazy. And then I think of all the mechanics, people we employed; a lot of those guys are top factory mechanics now as well. It was a good 13-year run, you know, I never would've thought we would have accomplished what we did.
We got a 125 SX win with Deegan at the L.A. Coliseum in our first year as a team in 1997 (the famous historic Ghost Ride bike that I still own) and a 125 Outdoor national win with Larry Ward in 2001. LW was on a 250F and was the first rider to ever win a national on a four-stroke. So you know that stuff is very cool. Moto XXX has made some history!
Oh, yeah, Carey Hart rode for us too and he was on a Moto XXX bike when he did his first back flip so, that bike that he's put on display at the Sycuan Casino, is not the bike he back-flipped on. I mean, it may be the actual bike, but it's certainly not the right graphics as he had Moto XXX graphics on his bike. I'm pretty bummed he put different graphics on his bike after we stepped up to help him back then. I personally think it's wrong but, whatever. He told me his reasoning behind it and I think it's stupid but, yeah, whatever. We were without a doubt a stepping stone to his success, even if it was a small stepping stone … we were there!
You guys had something different going on as you were representing the punk rock scene so you had that mix of music and motocross that no one else had. How did this come about?
Well, I don't mean to pat ourselves on the backs but, I really honestly believe that myself, Erik Sandin from NOFX, and Kenny Watson really had a first hand in introducing punk rock music to the motocross world through Moto XXX.
Back in the day no one was listening to punk rock music. No one knew the bands we put into our videos until they started hearing the tunes through our video and then we put out the first "Moto XXX" soundtrack on CD, which no other film company had done. We were always really tight with all the bands so it made it easy for us with using the music and getting the rights with bands like my own, NOFX, Pennywise, Lagwagon, and so on. I really do believe that Moto XXX was responsible for bringing punk rock music into motocross.
Well, hopefully the right opportunity is still out there and you guys can make one more banger "Moto XXX" movie again.
Well, the thing is I talk to a lot of people and there is still belief in the brand name so who knows. But, it's sad that it's basically been dead for almost four years now due to some stupid behind-the-scenes bulls--- but no need to go into that.
For s---- and giggles I started a Moto XXX fan page on Facebook just for people to lurk around on. You can find it at www.facebook.com/motoxxx I usually just post little things here and there, sometimes old pictures from back in the day. I get all stoked when people get on there and make mention of some of their favorite Moto XXX memories.
You know I still have some hope that maybe something can be worked out again and I've been kind of trying, but honestly I don't know what will ultimately happen. Signs point to nada right now.